Why Books?

Feb 20, 15 Why Books?

Before we begin, a lot of people will ask “Why books?” Many of you probably think that paper books have gone the way of the dinosaur because of Kindle, eBooks, and iPads.


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Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Despite the success of digital books, there is still a strong market for paper books, and it seems to be growing. Better yet, many traditional sources of paper books are drying up, even though the demand for them is still high, and in some cases, growing.

In the past three years, I accidently discovered that books are almost the ideal item to sell online. The many attributes that books offer include:

  • Books are easy and cheap to ship. It costs $2.95 to ship the average book via Media Mail from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and those who buy postage online via eBay get a discount. I even discovered that I could ship a 12-pound box of books to an Amazon.com fulfillment center for a little over $6.

 UFO Contact from Planet Koldas

  • Books have a high markup. The average used paperback costs 25 to 50 cents at a thrift store, yet it can be sold for around $5.99 online. That’s a 400% profit. The average profit on a new book sold online is under 10%. A used hardback book that costs 80¢ to $1 can be sold for $9.99. Many books sell for far more; I recently discovered that copies of a paperback humor book called The Rape of the APE I bought at my local thrift store for 25¢ sells online for a minimum of $20 apiece. Copies of something called UFO Contact from Planet Koldas fetch between $88.89 and $328.99. I eventually sold that one, which I paid $2, for $50. An obscure work on astrology called Language of Uranian Astrology costs between $139.74 and $240. I found both of those books in my local library book sale. The UFO Contact book was selling for $1 at the sale. In the last few months, I’ve found several such books, including a coffee table book worth $20, in a dumpster.

The Rape of the APE


  • The right books sell themselves. Little or no marketing or promotion is needed because the buyers are looking for you. If you have the right title for sale, the buyers will find you. The biggest expense for most online retailers is luring visitors to their sites. As somebody who has been involved in online retail for 15 years, I can tell you attracting people to a website is the hardest part of doing business online. The amount of time, money, and effort that I have invested in things like search engine optimization (SEO) and Facebook advertising is incredible, yet I’ve almost always gotten little or nothing to show for it.


  • com and eBay make it easier than ever to sell books. Most literate people are familiar with these resources and turn to them when they want to find a book. You will be able to sell to customers all over the world through them. I’ve sold books to customers in Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Italy, and Canada.

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  • Online marketplaces are growing at an incredible rate. com (NASDAQ: AMZN) reported revenues of $88.98 billion on Dec. 31, 2014. That means Amazon’s sales exceeded all but those of four American retailers: Walmart, Kroger, Costco, and the CVS Caremark chain. Amazon is growing at an incredible rate: its revenues increased by $14.54 billion in 2014. And guess what? Amazon.com began as an online bookseller.


  • There’s no need to set up your own website or promote it, a costly and time consuming process, because Amazon.com and eBay have already done the work for you. All you need to do is list the items and fulfill the orders. Setting up even the most basic retail website will cost a few hundred dollars, yet you probably won’t get any traffic without spending several hundred dollars more on promotional efforts.


  • com and eBay are evolving and constantly expanding their markets. By selling in those ecosystems, your potential market will constantly be expanding. They are constantly adding new programs, like Prime, eBay’s International Shipping Program, and Amazon Associates, which can greatly expand your reach and scope. They are constantly adding new features that can enhance your sales, such as eBay’s new concierge service.


  • It is extremely easy to locate large numbers of free or low-cost used books that you can easily resell online.
Mila 18

The Book and Comic Picker is your source for vintage paperbacks.

  • Traditional used bookstores, and bookstores in general, are disappearing. Although many readers consider this a tragedy, it is an opportunity for online booksellers because the net is now the only place to buy books. This New York Times article describes the bookstore desert in the Big Apple; the situation is worse in most cities, and the net is now the only place to buy most books in most small towns.


  • My personal experience seems to bear this out. I’ve shipped dozens of books to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.


  • The Internet has become America’s bookstore of choice. Endgadget just reported that revenues from online book sales in 2013 exceeded sales at brick and mortar book stores for the first time.
Peril at End House

A large selection of vintage paperbacks and classic mysteries can be found at The Book and Comic Picker.

  • Online book sales are profitable and they are growing: 512.7 million books were sold online in 2013, an increase of 10%, according to the Book Industry Study Group. Those sales generated $7.54 billion in revenue.


  • Many libraries routinely eliminate all books over a certain age and refuse to stock older books, including those by popular authors. I could only find one Mickey Spillane novel at the massive Denver Public Library, the nation’s largest. Mr. Spillane was one of the most popular American writers of the 1950s and 60s; his works sold tens of millions of copies, but they can be difficult to find in the average American city. The only place many readers can find such books in a non-digital form is to buy them online.


  • There are vast numbers of old, rare, obscure, and unusual books out there that will never be available in a digital format, yet there are still vast numbers of people that want to read those books.


  • The market for books is vast: 2.32 billion paper and electronic books were sold in 2013, the Book Industry Study Group reported. Those sales generated $14.63 billion in revenue.


  • There are a substantial number of readers out there that reject the whole concept of digital books. Those people will only read paper, yet strangely enough, a lot of them will order books online.
Captain America 109

The Book and Comic Picker has a large selection of classic Marvel Comics for sale.



  • There is a large collectors’ market for books, magazines, comics, and other printed materials. These collectors are willing to pay for the right items, and a lot of them spend at least part of their time trolling eBay for stuff to add to their collections.


  • Since they’re cheap, cost little to ship, and are easy to find, books are a great product for the beginner in online retail. You can get started quickly and cheaply, and more importantly, create a stream of revenue online.


  • You can learn the fundamentals of online retail and make money at the same time.

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